This biopic of a less widely known 1960’s figure and gay black man is mostly by-the-numbers and too small-scale in the end for its own good.
But this films had a certain special aura surrounding their subjects and a grander poignancy in reaching their denouements. The director of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom George C. Wolfe, can stir up the kind of interest here he did with Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman in recounting the vivacity and tensions of the civil rights activist who was the architect of the 1963 march on Washington, D.C.
That doesn’t mean that Colman Domingo (also ween on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead) doesn’t etch a credible, if authentic portrait of a man who figured more prominently in the Civil Rights movement than many had realized. Barack Obama posthumously honored Rustin in 2013 had realized. Barack Obama posthumously honored Rustin in 013 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and is one of the film’s producers.
What brought on the protest makes up much of the film and some of the strategizing scenes have notable qualities that can be reminiscent of Milk as well as Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Of course, obstacles that aren’t soft-pedaled come about from his sexuality being alongside such a dating inspirational course.
Part of the largely black cast include Audra McDonald, Da’Vine Joy Randolph (as Mahalia Jackson). Jeffrey Wright as Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. as well as Chris Rock as Ray Wilkins (head of the NAACP) and Ami Ameen as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Not to mention CCH Pounder as Anna Arnold Hedgeway who dotes how few women are orating on the march. Ameen doesn’t have the gravitas you might wish and Rock has too much of his stage persona to truly disappear into the willful Wilkins.
And, the build-up-just doesn’t unfold into the kind of poignancy associated with a subject caught up in a love triangle with a young white suffer (Gus Halper) and married minister (Johny Ramey). Rustin is more of a rote that ambitious recreation pulled in many ways around political activity, but isn’t the definitive treatment in spite of what dynamism Domingo displays from what lacks a death of natural storytelling.